Meow Wolf, the burgeoning immersive arts and entertainment company that has gotten big boosts from public funding to expand its enterprise from a single installation in an old bowling alley to a national effort with projects underway in several large cities, has secured a $528,283 job training grant from the state.
The reimbursable grant from the New Mexico Economic Development Department, announced Friday, will allow Meow Wolf to continue to build the production capabilities of its Creative Studios on Santa Fe’s south side. The grant calls for the company to hire and train 26 employees.
Vince Kadlubek, Meow Wolf’s co-founder and executive adviser, who stepped down as CEO in October, said the people who fill the new positions — ranging from an administrative assistant and a communications director to creative producers, designers, engineers and a safety director — largely will work on exhibitions under construction in Las Vegas, Nev., and Denver, and in the planning stages in Washington, D.C. Another exhibit is planned in Phoenix.
“As we grow, we are deciding what are the skill sets we want to have internally versus what we want to contract out,” Kadlubek said.
Meow Wolf’s Las Vegas exhibit is expected to open in 2020 and the Denver facility in 2021. Kadlubek declined to be more specific on opening plans, as construction could have a “nine-month swing of where we can land,” he said.
The immersive arts giant, which began as a small artist collective just over a decade ago, previously was awarded $910,371 in Job Training Incentive Program grants from the Economic Development Department to train 150 employees. Meow Wolf ultimately claimed reimbursement for training only 74 employees, according to the state agency’s statistics.
The state training grants reimburse companies for 50 percent to 75 percent of new employees’ wages for classroom and on-the-job training for up to six months.
Meow Wolf was one of 11 New Mexico businesses in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Corrales, Santa Rosa and Santa Teresa awarded a total of about $1.69 million to train 139 employees in the round of funding announced Friday.
Among those businesses was Golightly Cashmere, which owns the Chocolate + Cashmere shop in downtown Santa Fe. It received a $30,030 state grant to train a product engineer at its production facility on Pacheco Street. In September, Golightly was awarded a $76,425 state grant to train seven employees.
Meow Wolf, which opened its House of Eternal Return immersive arts exhibit and entertainment venue in Santa Fe in March 2016, secured $1.1 million in state and city grants to support its acquisition of an old Caterpillar plant on Camino Entrada; the funds included $250,000 from the city of Santa Fe’s economic development fund and $850,000 from the state’s Local Economic Development Act fund.
Kadlubek said the company brought on Ali Rubinstein in May as chief creative officer, and she laid out a plan for the permanent jobs she wants at Meow Wolf’s Creative Studios at the former Caterpillar plant. The new state training grant will help support those positions, he said.
Meow Wolf now has 452 employees, said Didi Bethurum, the company’s vice president of marketing.